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Abstraction in Contemporary Photography

Symposium and Presentation of the German Photographic Association (DGPh) Research Award

Time 03:00 p.m.
In Amerika Haus, Hardenbergstr. 22-24, 10623 Berlin
Language German
Fully booked.

With Susanne Holschbach . Art Historian and Media Scientist . Berlin
Peter Geimer . Professor of Recent and Contemporary Art History . Freie Universität Berlin
Gottfried Jäger . Artist and Theoretician . Bielefeld
Adrian Sauer . Artist . Leipzig
Stefanie Seufert . Artist . Berlin
Kathrin Schönegg . Curator . C/O Berlin
Moderation Katja Müller-Helle . Head of the research department Das Technische Bild . Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

The German Photographic Association (DGPh) division of history and archives will be holding a symposium on Abstraction in Contemporary Photography at C/O Berlin. The symposium will accompany the formal presentation of the 2018 DGPh History of Photography Research Award to our curator Kathrin Schönegg for her dissertation Fotografiegeschichte der Abstraktion (The photographic history of abstraction), published in German by Walther König in 2019. Kathrin Schönegg will hold a lecture entitled Neue Abstraktion? Das Fotografische im postdigitalen Zeitalter.

The panel discussion following the award ceremony will bring together artistic and theoretical reflections on the question of abstraction in photography, with contributions from Peter Geimer, Gottfried Jäger, Adrian Sauer, and Stefanie Seufert, moderated by Katja Müller-Helle.

For a very long time, the history of abstraction had no apparent need for the medium of photography. The classic catalogs of twentieth-century abstract art left photography out entirely; abstract art theory made no mention of the medium; and even specialized reference works included no entries on “abstract photography”. Since the turn of the millennium, however, this seems to have changed: Major survey exhibitions such as Abstract Photography (Kunsthalle Bielefeld, 2000) and Shape of Light. 100 Years of Photography and Abstract Art (Tate Modern, 2018) show the emergence of a discourse around the topic of abstraction that was preceded by developments reaching much further back into photographic history. What explains this new interest in the topic of abstraction in photography?

Taking contemporary photography as its point of departure, the symposium will explore the current discourse on and visual history of abstraction in photography. It will address the question of how this phenomenon should be understood today: Can one still speak meaningfully about abstraction more than 50 years after the modernist period reached its peak? What role do the art market and digitalization play in the current prominence of the topic? What lines of connection can be traced between contemporary and historic photographic practices such as the use of unusual perspectives, a focus on details, blurring, and methods of image production including cameraless photography to bring about abstract effects?